Monday, August 21, 2023

Planes, Trains, and automobiles!!

 So this happened!!!!

I'm HOME!!!!!!

Wait -- before you all panic, I'm OK. I'm thrilled to be home, and let's just say that travel days are always an adventure!

Here's what happened. 

In total, I took three rest days. Then I had to cut back the number of KMs I walked each day, and while I still had time to finish the Camino, I knew that I might be pushing the limits, especially if I wanted another rest day. The fact that my knee is a bit messed up didn't help the situation. 

So over a week ago, I evaluated the options and decided that I could get to a major city (easier to restart the Camino later), and I would be happy. I had a couple of options, but after chatting with DH and with all my reflections, I decided that Leon would be a good stopping point for my 2023 Camino. 

I have to say that I was thrilled with my decision. While I had to leave the Camino last year because of my blisters, the decision this year was easy and didn't cause me grief. I had so much time to reflect and learn about myself that I felt ready to come home. I want to take the things I thought about and see how to incorporate them into my life. Then next year, I can learn a whole lot more about myself.  

My biggest issue is time. I am ALWAYS trying to fill every minute of every day, and if I continued on the Camino, I would be rushed. Rushed to finish the Camino and then rushed to get back to work. And that is one of the reasons I went -- to have the luxury of time. So as a gift (and respect) to myself, I now have THREE weeks with basically nothing to do. 

I will NOT be answering phone calls, or e-mails, except for a few that absolutely need to be done. I may or may not participate in Zoom calls -- perhaps to say HI, and that's it. I plan to spend a lot of time here.

My "new" gazebo

Yes, while I was away, my gazebo got a makeover. I might even go and buy a new chair. I have a lot of reading or napping that I want to do, and guess where I'll be? 

I also want to spend a lot of time with these goofballs. Murphy was beyond herself with excitement when I got home. Lexi, well, she's aloof and needs to be alone to get the excitement out of her system; then she is ready to say HI!

Mom's home!!!!!!

I am incredibly happy with my 2023 Camino, and I'm sure I'll be blabbing on about it for a while. Zero regrets with the shortened time frame. As a matter of fact, I learned that I'm OK being away from home for 4 weeks (maximum), but longer than that, and I start to get antsy! So live and learn, and never look back. 

I thought I'd share the journey home, and I know exactly what some of you will say. This is why we book excursions, so we don't have to take care of the details!!!!

Once I knew what city I was going to end up in, I needed to book a train to Madrid, where I would catch my plane. Wait -- some people will ask, why didn't I visit Leon or Madrid while I was there? Seriously??? I'd just spent 4 weeks traipsing around Spain and seeing amazing wonders - I did NOT need to see Leon or Madrid. Shhhh, but I have zero interest in looking at cathedrals. A museum or two might be fine, but I loved walking through the countryside and the villages to see how the Spanish people lived. I do NOT want to traipse around a city filled with tourists!!!

OK -- so I needed to book a train. Thank god for smartphones because you can do almost anything on your phone. After Googling trains to Madrid, I found several booking sites. The night I tried to book my ticket, I wasn't having any success. The minute I hit "pay now," I would get a message. "sorry, those tickets have just sold out." OK -- let's take the first class ticket. Same thing. So onto the next booking reservation site. 

My original plan was to take the train on Sunday, but that wasn't working. So I checked for trains on Saturday evening after I arrived in Leon, and I had success. I had to take the 8:40 PM train to Madrid, which is a two-hour ride. 

So that is the high-speed train. This is NOT a picture of my train, which was much older, but I snapped this the next morning. 

The high-speed train

I tried to change my flight on the app, but that just wouldn't work, so DH to the rescue AGAIN!! (he had to do it last year as well), and he managed to get me a direct flight home on Sunday. So he might have cheated a bit and upgraded me to business class. 

I arrived in Madrid at 11:00 PM and my flight is at 12:30 the next day. What to do in the meantime? Sleep at the airport? Sleep in Madrid? Sleep in the train station? No more trains to the airport that night, so that wasn't an option. 

I hobbled up the steps at the train station, and to my delight, there was a sign for a HOTEL right at the train station. How civilized is that? So over to the hotel and spent the night there. 

Up the next morning to figure out how to get from the train station to the airport. After asking several people and looking at the signboards, I see that there is a train to the airport in about 20 minutes. OK -- so I need a ticket. The more that one travels on these systems, you kind of have an idea of how things work. So over to the ticket dispensers to buy a ticket. Two helper ladies standing there made quick work of figuring out the system, and I had a ticket. 

No one checks that you have a ticket, so could you just walk on the train? Well, you could, but you need the ticket to get out of the platform on the other end!

If you think the Toronto airport is big, think again! Madrid is HUGE. The train takes you to Terminal 4, and I need to be at Terminal 1. So a few more questions, and let's say that barely anyone speaks English or French; I'm directed to a green bus that transports people to the other terminals. Could I walk? NO -- Terminal 4 seems to be in the middle of nowhere.

At last, I arrive at Terminal 1, which seems to be the most popular Terminal for departures. AHA -- Now I am in a familiar area as I remember the airport from last year. I got to the Air Canada kiosk, which is manned by people! Yeah!!!!!

I wanted to check my backpack. The ticket agent asked me if I really needed to do that since this is how much it weighed!!!! 

The weight of my backpack

Wait a minute --- how could my backpack weigh less than when I left? I had eaten all my snacks, which weighed something, and I had a few things in a small bag that I took on the plane. But that bag weighed 7.5 KM on the way out. I didn't lose anything -- OK -- I did lose my tweezers, but that was it. Anyway, just goes to show that you can live with very few things, and I was happy. OH -- I might add that I was checking my luggage because my walking poles were INSIDE the tiny backpack. Yes -- added weight. God knows what I had in there on the way to Spain. Walking poles are NOT allowed through security, so the bag had to be checked. 

I bet the luggage transfer guy on the Camino was wondering why my bag was being checked every day!!! 

Then onto the lounge to rest for the next four hours while I waited for my plane. As we were getting ready to board, we were stopped on the gangway to wait for them to finish cleaning or something. 

Waiting to board the plane

OK -- I did NOT put pictures of my seat on the plane. I didn't want to make you jealous, but if you ever get the chance to at least once in your life fly business class with the lie-down beds, go for it. Especially on a long flight. This flight was 9 hours, and thank god I had the bed. I didn't really sleep much as I wanted to get myself back into my time zone pretty quickly. So I watched movies with noise-canceling headphones. OK -- so they were amazing. The headphones, not the movies!!!

I watched THREE movies, and that's huge for someone who can't stay awake to watch one at home. 

After disembarking the plane, it was a LONG walk to the customs and baggage area. Remember, I do NOT have walking sticks with me, and one guy asked if I wanted a wheelchair. Nope -- I'm good, and I'm able to hobble at a pretty good clip. Hey -- it hurts if you walk slow or fast, so go fast, and it'll be over sooner! 

Of course, my darn NEXUS card will NOT work with the automated gates. I have no idea why that happens. I must contact them. I don't know if the card is not activated or what - but it's a hassle, and I had to wait in a long line of airline crew to get through. The big Air Emirates plane had just landed, and they have 17 flight attendants on that plane!!!! However, that was better than waiting in the MASSIVE line of other people. 

There was no rush as we had to wait for the luggage. Yep --- it took over 30 minutes, and I was cursing those darn walking sticks!!!!! But all is good -- remember, patience is a virtue, and there was no rush to get home. 

The final craziness of the day was Uber. I get to the Q Door, and I order the Uber. Well, this guy must have been having a bad day or something. I can see his car on the app; he's coming to the gate, and then whoosh -- he's gone. Seriously??? I'm standing right there!!!!! How could he miss me? Or how could I miss him? Then I see him come around again on the app. Still no car. Then I see him come around the third time, and I texted him --- where was he? Well, he first went to the departures level -- seriously???? Then he went somewhere else. Turns out he was in the WRONG lane for the Uber pickup. 

By this time, I just wanted to get home. 

And then there were the girls who greeted me with great enthusiasm, each in their own way. 

DH came home from golf, and we sat around and chatted. I ate like a queen all day between the airport lounge and the business class seat, so I only had watermelon for dinner. 

I had a great sleep -- so nice to sleep in your own bed, but I swear it's HOTTER here than it is in Spain! 

So, yup, I'm home. Remember, I'm on my own time for the next three weeks. I've got nothing to do, but I won't be sitting idle. I want to MAKE things, I want to write, and the most important thing there is "I WANT" to do those things; it's not that I NEED to do them. 

I must take the lessons from this trip and try to incorporate them into my daily life. It won't be easy; no one can turn on a dime. But I am going to try and be very cautious with my time going forward. I'll share my time with others, but I'm also going to be much more selfish with it! 

So I'm home -- I'm healthy mostly (let's see what physio will say later today), and I'm THRILLED with my trip. It was amazing, and I can't wait to go back and finish!!!!!

Have a super day!!!!



  1. Hi Elaine - Glad you made it home on your terms. As I mentioned before, it is not about the destination, it is about the journey and you have had a wonderful journey. Enjoy your time. Gwen

  2. Good morning.
    Glad that you are home . You had an amazing trip. I hope that your knee will be in good shape for your finish next time. Enjoy your rest time with the girls in your gazebo!

  3. Awesome that you are home and safe! There was concern on my part when there was no Sunday blog. Enjoy YOUR time! Much luck with the talking knee.

  4. Glad to see you made it home, and are happy with your journey. What an accomplishment. Enjoy your “me time”.
    Yes, to flying business class on a long trip, what a treat, well deserved after your adventure!

  5. I did enjoy following your travels and look forward to your next adventure.

  6. I have vicariously walked the Camino with about half a dozen others who wrote books afterwards - but with you, I have taken every step as it happened. Thank you! Looking forward to the finish! Victoria

  7. and the Camino provides yet again. The wisdom to choose a stop/start location and the realization that you've had enough thought to process and apply to your life moving forward. Your journey reminds me of a book you would thoroughly enjoy: Following Atticus by Tom Ryan.


  8. What a relief to find out that you are home. Having problems with my knees, i was somewhat worried about you. You had a very good and fruitful journey. In the end you have to think about yourself and i am happy to hear that you came to that realization. Enjoy your time doing what you want for the next three weeks. Enjoy!

  9. I was worried yesterday when there was no update :-)
    I'm so glad you are safe at home. And that bonus of three more weeks off without any responsibilities - congratulations!!